Downton Abbey - a Fanfic of sorts
I started writing something and packed it up for now. It started to get a bit maudlin and I'm not in that frame of mind, so...
What to write about today?
I’ve never watched so much television as I have over the last 2 years. I’ve binge-watched Modern Family, Dexter (again), House, The Mentalist, Harry Potter (all the films, at least twice) - so many films: series and franchise, cowboys and comedies, horror and historic, good, bad, middle and indifferent and now I’m onto something I never imagined I’d watch – Downton Abbey.
I just didn’t fancy watching it but now that I’ve started, I don’t want to stop – and to me, that’s the sign of a good production.
The characters are beautifully flawed, brilliantly acted and dazzlingly realistic. I can imagine the scenarios being exactly as they are portrayed and it’s simply wonderful.
Yeah, I’m gushing.
Does this mean I’ll start writing elegant historical romance rather than the gritty, hard-nosed realism I’ve been writing on my blog?
I don’t think so… especially after today’s episode.
There may be spoilers ahead so if you’ve not yet watched Downton Abbey and you think you might like to, either don’t read any further, or don’t blame me if Season 2 is ruined for you.
Picture the setting:
An upper-class traditional family just emerging from the First World War. There’s been a number of tragedies, but some sunshine among the storms.
There are wedding preparations at Downton and the house is in a flurry of activity. A Society affair with all the pomp and circumstance of two magnificent Houses joining together after overcoming an overwhelming few years. The current Lord of Downton Abbey has all-but adopted his heir (his daughters cannot inherit; the title has to go to the closest male heir) and the hopes for his eldest daughter to be married off to that heir have been dashed time after time in a constant ‘will-they-won’t-they?’ series of events over the first two series.
Lord and Lady of Downton
The Lord and his wife are wonderful characters in this series. Both are elegant and kind, yet sticklers for their positions in English Society, with all its constraints and conundrums. The wife suffered a miscarriage (which was a boy and therefore the solution to all their problems) and the audience feels terribly sad for her.
The star-crossed lovers (not yet lovers, of course, that would NOT be permitted) have both found someone else and everyone has arrived at Downton for the wedding of the decade.
A few evenings before the wedding itself, the Head Butler is taken suddenly and seriously ill just before dinner. Then, at the dinner itself, the Lady of the house excuses herself because she has succumbed to illness too.
We watch with growing concern as the bride-to-be is also taken ill, just after the doctor has left – he was asked to come to take care of the Butler and then the Lady of the house. The bride-to-be takes herself off down the stairs after a reviving-nap and she catches her fiancé dancing with the eldest daughter of the Lord of the house – she doesn’t let on, but she saw them kiss during their dance.
The eldest daughter speaks to her politely and it would seem, affectionately and she tells her that she should not be out of bed until the doctor examines her tomorrow when he returns.
The bride returns to bed and her fiancé follows (accompanied by his mother, of course, the two should not be left alone, for fear their emotions run away with them). She speaks to him in impassioned tones, once his mother has left them alone, assured that they won’t behave like rampant animals as soon as the door is closed. She asks him if she is in the way and he assures her that she is not.
“Please, don’t ever let me be in the way,” she said, tears brimming in her eyes. “You see, when I came down the stairs, I saw you and I want you to promise that I will never be in your way.”
In other words, she has put the feelings of her husband-to-be far above her own, she loves him that much.
Deeply disturbed by his bride-to-be’s heartfelt words, he promises that she is neither in the way, nor is she ever going to be.
Later that evening, the Lady of the house is dreadfully ill. She has a massive and dangerous fever and her lady’s maid stays with her all night, coping with the fever, icing her, washing her down and generally making sure she doesn’t boil to death in her own skin.
Spanish Flu killed millions, indiscriminately, callously and suddenly.
The audience watches as the beloved Lady battles the fever and confused thoughts, even as the lady’s maid tries to confess a dreadful secret that only she and we, the audience are privy to.
Sweat soaks the Lady’s pillowcase and bedsheets and she looks close to death. The doctor declares that she is close to the end – if she survives the night, she will live.
The husband-to-be sits with his bride-to-be in her borrowed bedchamber. Visitors from the rest of the guests are dotted around the bedroom and things don’t seem anywhere near as desperate as they are for the Lady of the house.
We are told in passing that a couple of maids have been taken, and though they all believed the stand-in was as ill as the Butler, we find out that he is suffering from a strong case of nervous inebriation – he couldn’t take the pressure and sampled too much of the dinner wine – a fleetingly short break in the tension of the moment.
Suddenly an announcement rings out in the main reception area. The doctor is needed quickly!
Is it the Lady of the house? Has she turned a corner in her sickness, only to be greeted by Death himself?
No, that’s the thing about Spanish Influenza, it is devilishly deceptive and no one can tell who it will carry away and who it will spare.
The bride-to-be’s bedchamber hosts the last words of the Spanish Flu’s latest victim. She falls to the Spanish Flu as I assume many did, surrounded by loved ones to hear her declare her love for the husband she just couldn’t hook.
Yes, that's Dame Maggie Smith - Professor Mcgonagall from Hogwarts
Downton Abbey, though far out of anything I have experienced in reality, has hooked me. I enjoy realistic historic drama and this one, as I’ve already said, is well-written and brilliantly acted.
The heroes are suitably heroic, the villains are flawed and get their come-uppance on a regular basis and the supporting characters all come across as believable and deep.
Some of the situations are easy to predict but that doesn’t matter because the journey is the fun part, not the destination. I find that when I’m engulfed by something – be it a film or a dramatic production – my brain doesn’t go off looking for what’s coming next. That’s the type of dramatic production Downton Abbey is – enthralling, all-consuming, dazzling brilliance.
I enjoy watching the scathing sarcasm of House, the dashing heroics and romance of Outlander and any number of different fictional productions to be viewed on Netflix, Amazon and NowTV. For the moment, Downton has my attention and tomorrow I’ll write my version of the episode I’ve just described.
I hope I’m up to the task.